By Ella Brownie, Al Quds-Al Arabi
The Historical General Assembly has split into a number of factions each focusing on relatively different parts of the complex processes that will be needed to fully decolonize the Western Sahara. Columbia, Italy and Portugal have emphasized that the United Nations working to get a referendum is the primary goal. From their perspective, the biggest current problem is the lack of democracy in the region.
With a large amount of consensus among delegates on the necessity of a referendum, the discussion of the committee began to focus on the actual measures needed to hold a fair and unbiased election. This discussion included finding a process to determine who should be able to vote in a referendum.
Both the Cambodian and German delegations have emphasized the importance of discussing voter eligibility. They proposed that Moroccans established in Western Sahara prior to 1982, when the Moroccan government begun encouraging migration to the region, should have the right to vote. Thailand has also suggested establishing polling booths in refugee camps in order to allow displaced Saharawi people to vote.
Other blocs placed more of an emphasis on the economic dynamics in the region. In particular, Singapore and the United Kingdom have suggested placing a temporary ban on foreign exports from the region. They reason that Morocco only wants control over this region because of these valuable resources. Freezing such assets until a government can be put in place will prevent the resources from becoming tools of political maneuvering within the region.
A further issue discussed by the committee was the importance of guaranteeing citizenship and residency options for both parties to prevent backlash regardless of the election result. Some countries argued this would constitute “inclusive integration” for the losing party, be these Moroccans or Saharawi, in any post-referendum state.
Finally, members of the committee discussed humanitarian aid and disarmament. Disarmament of both the POLISARIO and the Moroccan army in order to prevent further civilian casualties was a hot topic; however, it currently appears unlikely that all parties, especially Morocco and her allies, will come to a consensus on this proposal.